A Minimal Future? Art as Object 1958-1968 Edited by Ann Goldstein and Lisa Mark. MIT Press, 2004. 452pp. £32.95
Beyond Geometry: Experiments in Form 1940s-1970s Edited by Lynn Zelevansky. MIT Press, 2004. 240pp. £32.95
Made bland by the likes of John Pawson and further neutralised in 'lifestyle' magazines, Minimalist art of the 1960s is misunderstood, writes Andrew Mead. But it's clear from the surface and material preoccupations of such practices as Gigon/Guyer and Herzog & de Meuron that this art is a productive reference today, even if one name above all recurs: the subject of last year's Tate Modern retrospective, Donald Judd.
The Minimalist label was rejected by the protagonists of the period, and neither of these well-illustrated books - catalogues to complementary shows in Los Angeles last year - applies it in too rigorous a way.
A Minimal Future? restricts itself to a decade and a 40-strong US cast-list; Beyond Geometry, though featuring some of the same artists, looks further afield by examining affinities with Concrete Art (Max Bill etc) and the simplified forms of certain South American works of the post-war period - it's more revisionist in this respect.
Both books contain art, in both two and three dimensions, that's bound to be unfamiliar, especially Beyond Geometry;
but it's a shame that the designer of this otherwise elegant volume felt impelled to surround all the text with a thin yellow line.
Though no essays in either book really touch on the architectural connection, there are some shrewd observations - Jonathan Flatley in A Minimal Future? , for instance, returning to Judd with the comment:
'Like factory workers gossiping on the assembly line even as they are dominated by a totalising order, Judd's materials carry on secret conversations with the world around them, murmuring with the echoes of Plexiglas jukebox windows, car parts, cutlery and shiny metal turnstiles.' Neither book can really do justice to the art it features: qualities of surface get lost in reproduction, and the interaction that much of this work demands - the spectator's exploration in time and space of 'art as object' - is, of course, unfeasible. They both look good nonetheless.